Divorce or separation: when pragmatism wins

Divorce numbers are increasing. Behind these being on the rise, lies an often unaccounted statistic of those couples who have separated following a relationship which did not include the formality of marriage.

Neither course is an easy option - divorce or separation are emotional and challenging processes. There are however, potentially ways in which this could be lessened and the approach made easier for everyone involved.

It is crucial, especially for couples with children, that they do not become embroiled in acrimonious divorce or separation proceedings. It is also a way of ensuring that legal costs are kept to a minimum.

Getting started

The preliminary consideration for anyone considering their options around such forms of partnership, whether to apply to divorce or indeed separate, is to seek specialist advice from a family solicitor at an early stage.

The family law team at BLM will advise you on your options so that you can decide the best solution for you. From the outset we will advise you on alternatives ways of finding resolution for financial and children issues.

An alternative is mediation, which involves you and your partner seeing a qualified mediator to give you guidance. This will only be appropriate if both of the two partners are completely committed to the process. If mediation is not the preference for you, other options may be productive. For example, negotiations through solicitors or meetings between you, your spouse and both solicitors.

If you are facing divorce or separation these guidelines will assist you during the process:

  • Go friendly: The solicitors at BLM are members of Resolution. Resolution operate a strict code of practice that offers clear guidelines on avoiding hostility. Talk to us; it is essential that you and your lawyer can get on well together
  • Check the hourly rate: As in every other sphere of life the cheapest is not always the best. Time is often of the essence and a lawyer who is a specialist in the field of family law will be able to sort out the essentials, work swiftly and be more cost effective
  • Is the one you see the one you get? Ask about delegation and insist on meeting all the members of our team. You and they need to know that you can work well together
  • Billing process: Ask about fees and costs. Make sure that you know exactly what the case is likely to cost you and that you are aware of the cost position as the case progresses
  • Be prepared: Always prepare a list of things you want to talk to us about. Make sure that details of bank accounts, investments, pensions, mortgage, policies and your general expenditure are available, up to date and correct
  • Maintain a sense of decorum: However much you may feel like doing so on occasion, do not write aggressive and insulting letters or emails to your spouse or partner. They are likely to be shown to the lawyers and possibly the Family Court, so only serve to prolong the agony and increase the costs
  • Specialist help: If required, specialist help is available. This may range from accountants, financial planners and valuers to the more personal but equally important counselling and life coaching. We work with a wide network of experts that can assist
  • The children: The Court’s first concern will be the welfare of your children. Although emotions may be running high, try and resolve the arguments and reach an agreement with your spouse or partner directly about childcare arrangements
  • Personal possessions: Again, common sense should prevail when deciding who takes what. Lawyers can offer sensible and pragmatic guidance but to do so in our view is to spend money you may not need to
  • Keep the matter in perspective: There is life after divorce and separation. Try to maintain your sense of humour, difficult though this may be at the time. A sense of perspective is essential

Authored by Daniel Jones, Partner and Head of Family Law (England & Wales)

Disclaimer: This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to clients of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.